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McLaughlins of Donegal

The McLaughlins of Cinel Eoghainn are descended from Aodh Finnlaith, the Irish Ard Ri or High King who died in 876 A.D. From Aodh Finnlaith's son, Niall Glundubh, descend both the McLaughlins and the O'Neills, their kinsmen and rivals for the kingship of Aileach, the leading dynasty of the north of Ireland. Seated in Inishowen in Tirconnell (Donegal) the McLaughlins were direct descendants of Niall Mor or Niall 'of the Nine Hostages,' the great High King of Ireland who by legend was slain in 405 A.D. on a military expedition to the banks of the Loire in Gaul.

Niall 'of the Nine Hostages,' so named for hostages taken from the two kingdoms of Munster, Leinster, Connacht, the Ulaid, the Britons, the Picts, the Saxons and the Morini, a people of Gaul, was the founder of the Ui Neill (descendants of Niall) dynasties of the midlands and the north of Ireland. Sometime before his death in 405 A.D., Niall's three sons, Eoghan, Eanna and Conal Gulban founded kingdoms in the north of Ireland, a territory formerly ruled by the Ulaid, who gave their name to the province of Ulster. Descendants of these three sons of Niall are described as the northern Ui Neill in contradistinction to the descendants of the other sons of Niall who remained in the midlands, the southern Ui Neill.

From Eoghan descended the Cinel Eoghainn (progeny of Owen), of which the McLaughlins and the O'Neills were the ruling dynasty. From his brother Conal Bulban descended the Cinel Chonaill of Tirconnell, of which in later centuries the O'Donnells wee the chief representatives. From Eanna, the third brother, descended the Cinel Eanna, Kings of Magh Ith, Tir Eanna and Fanad in presentday Co. Donegal until dispossessed of their territories by the expansion of the Cinel Chonaill septs in the 12th century. Eoghan, for whom the Inishowen peninsula in Co. Donegal is named (Inis-Eoghainn or the Island of Owen), established his kingdom centered at the Grianan of Aileach, an ancient hill-fort by legend said to have been a fortress of the Tuatha de Danann kings of Ireland, the mythical precursors to the Milesian invaders of Ireland. Tir-Eoghainn, now Tyrone, also received its name from this son of Nial (Country of Owen).

For over 700 years the kings of Aileach ruled the north of Ireland from this fortress situated in the southern part of the Inishowen peninsula in Co. Donegal between Loughs Swilly and Foyle, until its destruction in 1101 by Muirchertach O'Brien, the King of Munster, in retalliation for the destruction of the palace of Kincora in 1088 by Domnall MacLochlainn, the High King of Ireland. After the destruction of the Grianan of Aileach, the McLaughlins are said to have first removed to Inish Ennigh in the Parish of Urney in Tyrone County, but later maintained their great house in the nearby Island of Derry, a religious center. Their kinsmen and rivals for the kingship of Aileach, the O'Neills, were seated at Tullyhoge near Dungannon in Tyrone County, the traditional inauguration site of the kings of Aileach.

After the death of Aodh Finnlaith in 876 A.D., three dynasties emerged from amoung his descendants to contend for the kingship of Aileach, which is occasionally described as "an Fochla" or the north of Ireland by the annalists. Independant of but subject to the kings of Aileach were the Oirghialla (kingdom of Oriel) and the Ulaid (kingdom of Ulidia).

Two of these dynasties, the McLaughlins and the O'Neills, were descendants of Niall Glundubh (black-knee), the elder son of Aodh Finnlaith. The third were descendants of Domnall, the younger half-brother of Niall Glundubh. According to the Ban-Shenchus (the History of Women) Maoilmuire, the daughter of Cinaedh macAlpin, the King of Scotland, was the mother of Niall Glundubh. Gormlaith, the daughter of Eochu, the king of the Ulaid, was the mother of Domnall, the younger brother. Both brothers were Kings of Aileach. Domnall, dying first in 915, was succeeded by his half-brother Niall, who also held the Kingship of Ireland from 916 until his death three years later fighting the Danes at the Battle of Dublin in 919.

At first the succession to the kingship of Aileach alternated between the descendants of Aodh Finnlaith. Fergal, the son of Domnall, slain in 938, was King of Aileach, as was Aodh, the great-grandson of Domnall, slain in 994. This dynastic line reached its pinnacle with the reigns of Niall and Lochlan, both sons of Maelsechlainn and Kings of Aileach. After the death in 1068 of Domnall 'of the Poor,' Niall's son, at the hands of his brother Aodh, who succeeded him, this line was thereafter excluded from the kingship of Aileach by the descendants of Niall Glundubh.

Muirchertach 'of the leather cloaks,' the son of Niall Glundubh, was King of Aileach, as was his son, Domnall Ua Neill, styled 'of Armagh' by the annalists. Like his grandfather, Domnall Ua Neill was also the High King of Ireland. Domnall had four sons, the eldest of whom, Aodh, held the kingship of Aileach at his death in 1004. From his brothers Muirdaigh and Muirchertach descended the rival families of McLaughlin and O'Neill, who after 1083 monopolised the kingship of Aileach.

Despite the common description of the family as the "oldest traceable family in Europe," neither the McLaughlins nor the O'Neills are fully traceable in the Annals of Ireland. Muirdaigh, the son of Domnall 'of Armagh,' does not appear in the Annals. Nor does his son Lochlan, the eponymous founder of the McLaughlin sept. Their names appear only in the traditional genealogies of the Cinel Eoghainn. Muirchertach, the third son of Domnall 'of Armagh,' appears in the Annals but only his death is recorded in 977 A.D. His son Flaithbertach an Trostainn or 'of the Pilgrim's Staff,' so named for a pilgrimmage he took to Rome in 1030, was the King of Aileach, as was his son, Aodh Athlaman Ua Neill, from whom the O'Neills descend (+1033). Henceforward the O'Neill line is excluded from the kingship of Aileach and ignored by the annalists until the death of Muirchertach Ua Neill in 1160 A.D.

From the reign of Ardgar MacLochlainn (+1064), the son of Lochlan, as King of Aileach until Aodh Ua Neill (+1177) managed to regain the leadership of the Cinel Eoghainn, the royal line of the McLaughlins maintained sole possession of the coveted kingship of Aileach. Ardgar MacLochlainn's son was Domnall MacLochlainn, the King of Aileach and the High King of Ireland, who reigned despite the opposition of Muirchertach O'Brien, the King of Munster and a rival claimant for the throne, by some considered a joint High King. In 1088 Domnall MacLochlainn led an army of the north of Ireland into Munster, ravaged the countryside and destroyed the royal palace of the O'Brien kings at Kincora in Co. Clare. Thirteen years later he was repaid for this insult when Muirchertach O'Brien marched into Tirconnell and sacked the fortress of Aileach. Legend states Muirchertach ordered each of his men to carry a stone from the demolished Grianan of Aileach back to Limerick in a sack.

"I never heard of the billeting of grit stones
Though I heard of the billeting of companies,
until the stones of Aileach were billeted
on the horses of the King of the West."

Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland

Domnall MacLochlainn, the Annals record, "died at Doire-Choluim-Cille (Derry) affter having been twenty-seven years in sovereignty over Ireland, and eleven years in the Kingdom of Aileach, in the seventy-third year of his age, on the night of Wednesday, the fourth of the Ides of February, being the festival of Mochuarog, 1121 A.D."

His son, Niall MacLochlainn, the royal heir of Aileach, was slain by the Cinel Moain of Magh Ith at 28 years of age. His son Muirchertach MacLochlainn was the last McLaughlin High King of Ireland and according to the annalists, the "last, save one, Monarch of the Irish Milesian race," a reference to the arrival of the Norman-English barons in Ireland in 1171 under Strongbow, an event which effectively ended the Irish High Kingship of the island. Like his grandfather, Muirchertach reigned with opposition from a rival claimant to the Monarchy, this time from Ruaidhri (Rory) O'Connor, the King of Connacht. He suffered quite a different fate than his distinguished ancestor, Domnall. In 1156 Muirchertach MacLochlainn attended the consecration of Millifont Church, gifting the clergy with 120 cows and 60 ounces of gold. In 1162 he led a hosting of the north of Ireland to Magh-Fitharte, where he spent a week burning the corn and the towns of the foreigners (English). In 1164 he aided in the building of Derry Church. In 1166 he slew Aodh O'Mulfoyle, the King of Carrickabraghy and blinded Eochaidh MacDunleby O'Haughey, the King of Ulaid, in violation of sanctuary offered by the church and Donnchadh O'Carroll, the King of Oriel. In retalliation for this outrage against the church, O'Carroll led an uprising of the subject kingdoms of Aileach against Muirchertach MacLochlainn. Because of his treachery in blinding O'Haughey, Muirchertach was abandoned by his sept, "save a few," the Annals relate, and was slain by Donnchadh O'Carroll along with thirteen members of his party. He was buried in Armagh "to the dishonor of the Derry community in being carried away from the cemetery, 1166 A.D."

Soon after his death Ruaidhri O'Connor, who succeeded him as unopposed High King of Ireland, gathered around him the chieftains of Ireland to discuss, amoung other topics, the control of tribes and their territories in Ireland. The outrages of the recently slain Muirchertach MacLochlainn must have figured heavily in their discussions, because after this meeting in 1167 Ruaidhri O'Connor led an army into Tir-Eoghainn and partitioned the Kingdom of Aileach between the McLaughlins and the O'Neills. According to the Four Masters, that part of the kingdom north of the mountain Calainn he gave to Niall MacLochlainn in eschange for two hostages. That part of the kingdom south of the same mountain he gave to Aodh Ua Neill, again in exchange for two hostages. The once great Kingdom of Aileach was now divided into two smaller kingdoms, that of Aileach, much reduced in size and held by the McLaughlins and that of Tyrone, held by the O'Neills.

This act of Ruaidhri O'Connor's, obviously intended to weaken the power of the dominant McLaughlin dynasty of the Cinel Eoghainn, revived the nearly dormant claims of the O'Neill branch of the family to leadership within the Cinel Eoghainn, although there were indications that the dynastic rivalry between them had been rekindled a few years before Ruaidhri O'Connor's partition of their territory. In 1160 Muirchertach Ua Neill was slain by Lochlan Ua Lochlainn, who was in turn slain by Muirchertach's son, Aodh. This Aodh Ua Neill was briefly Lord of the Cinel Eoghainn and is accorded by the annalists at his death the titles of both King of Aileach and Lord of Tyrone. He was slain in 1177 by Maoilseachlainn MacLochlainn and his son, Ardgal.

After Aodh Ua Neill's death at the hands of the McLaughlins, the struggle for supremacy between the McLaughlins, Kings of Aileach, and the O'Neills, newly-erected Lords of Tyrone, was for the leadership of the entire Cinel Eoghainn rather than for a specific kingdom. In 1186 the Annals of Ulster state there was a "great disturbance in the north this year." In that year Domnall MacLochlainn, Lord of the Cinel Eoghainn, was deposed by the nobles of the Cinel Eoghainn in favor of Ruaidhri Ua Flaithbertach, a compromise candidate acceptable to all sides. Ruaidhri was soon slain in battle, however, ending the breif respite in hostilites between the warring McLaughlins and O'Neills. The following years, from 1187 to 1197, witnessed a succession of McLaughlin chieftains of the Cinel Eoghainn. But in 1199 Aodh Ua Neill, the son of the Aodh Ua Neill slain in 1177, is mentioned as leading a hosting of the Cinel Eoghainn as their leader. He wad deposed in 1201 by the nobles of the Cinel Eoghainn and Conchobar (Connor) MacLochlainn was crowned Lord of the Cinel Eoghainn in his place.

Conchobar was soon slain in battle and in 1202 Magnus MacLochlainn, the son of Diarmat, was slain by Muirchertach Ua Neill, who also fell in the same battle. In 1204 Diarmat MacLochlainn joine forced with an army of the Norman-English and led a foray into the O'Neill territory of Tyrone, then plundered the church of Cholium-Cille (St. Collumcille) in Derry and was slain. In 1209 Aodh Ua Neill was again named Lord of the Cinel Eoghainn and in 1215, the King of Aileach as well as the Lord of Tyrone. After his death in 1230 the leadership of the Cinel Eoghainn was contested bitterly by the two rival families.

In 1230 Domnall MacLochlainn, the son of Muirchertach (described in the Annals as the "destroyer of the cities and castles of the English") is recorded as Lord of the Cinel Eoghainn. In that year he made an alliance with the Norman-English and led a hosting of the "foreigners" into Tirconnell. In 1234 he slew Domnall Ua Neill, the son of Aodh. In 1237 Domnall was deposed as Lord of the Cinel Eoghainn by the same "foreigners," but a year later regained the Lordship after the Battle of Carn-Siadhail, in which he routed the O'Neill forces and slew Domnall Ua Neill of Tamnach and Magh Mathgamna. In 1239 Mac Maurice, the Norman Lord Justice of Ireland and Hugo De Lacy, the Norman Earl of Ulster, marched into Tyrone with an army, deposed Domnall MacLochlainn and awarded the Lordship of the Cinel Eoghainn to Brian O'Neill. A battle was fought between the rival claimants later that year at Carnteel, after which Domnall MacLochlainn resumed the Lordship, but the Annals add, "was deprived of it without delay." In 1241 Domnall MacLochlainn again managed to expell Brian O'Neill from the Lordship of the Cinel Eoghainn.

Then the Annals tersely relate, Brian O'Neill went to Maoilseachlainn O'Donnell, and O'Donnell with his force went with Ua Neill into Tyrone and they gave battle to Domnall MacLochlainn in the Battle of Caim Eirge, in which Domnall MacLochlainn and ten members of his family were slain along with all of the chieftains of the Cinel Eoghainn. Brian O'Neill was then installed as Lord of the Cinel Eoghainn and the McLaughlins, for centuries Kings of Aileach and High Kings of Ireland, never again challenged the O'Neills for supremacy within the Cinel Eoghainn.

Just six years later, in 1247, the O'Donnells appear for the first time in the Annals as "Lords of Inishowen," a teritory which included most of the partitioned Kingdom of Aileach held by the vanquished McLaughlins. The Inishowen peninsula had long been the prized possession of the Kings of Aileach, a fertile land rich in livestock and fishings, the ancestral patrimony of Eoghan, the son of Niall 'of the Nine Hostages.' One of the free chieftainships of Aileach, populated exclusively by Cinel Eoghainn septs and subdivided into two subkingdoms, An Breadhach, ruled by the O'Duidhiormas, and Carraig Brachaidhe, ruled by the O'Maolfabhails, the Inishowen peninsula had long been coveted by the expansion-minded O'Donnell Kings of Tirconnell and there is some evidence to indicate they temporarily won control of the peninsula after the death of the powerful Domnall MacLochlainn in 1121. In 1152 the Synod of Kells was held and it was decided to establish 36 dioceses in Ireland based on the political divisions existing at the time. The Inishowen peninsula was included with the rest of the Clann Chonaill possessions in the newly-formed Diocese of Raphoe, indicating the O'Donnells were in possession of the peninsula at that date. It was later transferred back to the Derry Diocese in 1261 under the influence of the O'Neills.

At the time of the Synod, however, the Kingdom of Aileach had yet to be partitioned and the McLaughlins, although seated at Derry, were Lords of the entire north of Ireland, leaving control of the peninsula to their sublords, the O'Duidhiormas and the O'Maoilfabhails. After the partition of the Kingdom of Aileach, howver, their territory was restricted primarily to that part of the kingdom which lay within the bounds of the Inishowen peninsula. After their defeat at the Battle of Caim Eirge, the Kingdom of Aileach was dissolved as were the subkingdoms of Carraig Brachaidh and An Breadhach. The O'Donnells immediately lay claim to the peninsula as their "sword land" and usurped the title of "Lord of Inishowen" from the resident Cinel Eoghainn septs.

This claim of the O'Donnells to the Inishowen peninsula, recognised by the annalists at the death of Maoilseachlainn O'Donnell in 1247, was curiously unopposed by the victorious O'Neill chieftains of the Cinel Eoghainn until years later, although the annals of succeeding centuries are rife with their later attempts to reclaim the peninsula from the O'Donnells. There is no documentary proof but it appears as though Brian O'Neill at his meeting with Maoilseachlainn O'Donnell in 1241 prior to the Battle of Caim Eirge bartered away the Cinel Eoghainn's traditional claims to this territory in exchange for O'Donnell's assistance in crushing their rivals the McLaughlins, who had once gain won the upper in their dynastic struggle.

In 1543 the O'Donnells and the O'Neills presented their opposing claims to the Inishowen peninsula to the English authorites. In the decision handed down, Magnus O'Donnell was awarded the peninsula over the claims of Conn O'Neill, in the |wording of the State Papers, "because O'Donell before the Lord Deputy and Council exhibited divers writings, confirmations or releases of that lordship made by the Earl's ancestor his his ancestors." No specifics are given concerning the "divers writings" of Magnus O'Donnell's, so we can never be precisely sure when the O'Neills granted the Inishowen peninsula to the O'Donnells. It appears certain, however, that Brian O'Neill and Maoilseachlainn O'Donnell reached an agreement of some kind concerning the disposition of the McLaughlin's territory in Tirconnell prior to the Battle of Caim Eirge.

After the Battle of Caim Eirge, the McLaughlins, bearing their royal dead, are said to have retreated for safety into the most northern reaches of the Inishowen peninsula. The family, not terribly numerous, was neary destroyed in the battle, which appears to have been the intent of the O'Neills and the O'Donnells, both of whom stood to gain immensely by their defeat.Ten of Domnall MaclOchlainn's immediate family were slain along with all of the chieftains of the Cinel Eoghainn. This number probably included most of the adult McLaughlin males capable of bearing arms, including Murchadh or Moroch, Domnall's only son. If the traditional genealogies of O'Clery's Book of Genealogies are correct - and there is little reason to doubt them - all of the McLaughlin descendants of this sept living today are descended from Domnall MacLochlainn, the King of Aileach and Lord of the Cinel Eoghainn, through the line of his son, Murchadh.

In 1260 the O'Donnell claims to the Inishowen peninsula were brushed aside by the Norman De Burgo family of Munster, who recently had been appointed Earls of Ulster after the English title had lain vacant for several years. In that year the De Burgos marched into Tirconnell in force and occupied the Inishowen peninsula. In 1305 they completed the Castle of Northburg (now Greencastle) on the Foyle shore. In an attempt to protect their holdings from the Irish chieftains of Tirconnell and Tyrone, the De Burgos set up a line of fortifications running across the southern part of the Inishowen peninsula from the City of Derry to Lough Swilly. In 1310 they obtained from Geoffrey MacLochlainn, then Bishop of Derry, grants of church lands needed to complete their fortifications.

In 1330, following a family squabble, the De Burgos suddenly withdrew from the Inishowen peninsula after an occupation of over seventy years, leaving a political vacuum in the area. Into this political vacuum stepped the O'Doghertys of Clan Fianhainn, kinsmen to the O'Donnells. The McLaughlins, nearly destroyed as a sept in the butchery of Caim Eirge nearly a century before, must have watched helplessly as the Cinel Chonaill forces swept into the peninsula in the wake of the Norman withdrawall. ;Without the support of the Cinel Eoghainn chieftains, at this date loyual only to the O'Neills, the McLaughlins were unable to resist the advance of the O'Doghertys into their territory.

The O'Doghertys had formerly been Lords of the kingdom of Ard Miodhair in central Donegal, but over the centuries had expanded their original holdings by annexing the kingdoms of Magh Ith and Tir Eanna, the latter bordering the Inishowen peninsula to the south. Following the De Burgo withdrawall from Tirconnell, the O'Doghertys as subject chieftains of the ruling O'Donnells moved quickly into the peninsula and within a few years established their overlordship of the territory. In 1342, commenting on the death of Domnall O Dochartaigh, the Annals of Ulster state: "and it is not this alone, for there was little wanting from his having the Lordship of Inish-Eoghain and the Lordship of the Cantred of Tir-hEnna as well ...."

The O'Doghertys are first named "Lords of Inishowen in the more conservative Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland in 1413 and the peninsula thereafter became known as "O'Dogherty's Country" and is referred to as such in all state documents of the 16th and 17th centuries. That O'Dougherty probably was awarded theInishowen peninsula by the O'Donnells as a means of protecting their claims to the territory is revealed in a boast made by Hugh roe O'Donnell to the English in 1596: "O Dochartie hath no lands but what O'Donnell doth give him in Tirconnell. Neither had his predacessors any lands there but such as they held of O'Donnell's ancestors."

Thus fell the McLaughlins
of noble Clan Owen
Kings of Aileach
and Monarchs of Eire;
Deprived of a kingdom
through the fortunes of battle
and the schemes of their rivals;
Trapped between swords
Red ran their blood
on the hills of Caim Eirge.

Although the McLaughlins, in the words of O'Donovan, had been "reduced to obscurity" by the O'Neills, the O'Donnells and the O'Doghertys. they still retained large tracts of land near Derry and on the Foyle shore in Moville Parish as their traditional sept landholdings. It is probable that most of these landholdings were subsequently converted into church or herenagh lands, safe from despoliation in times of war, a frequent occurance in the Inishowen peninsula as the O'Donnells and the O'Neills quarrelled over its ownership.

In English inquisitions taken at Derry and Lifford in 1609 the McLaughlins appear as herenaghs or lay officials of church or monastery land in the Parishes of Clonca, Moville and Temple Mor (Derry) in the Inishowen peninsula. While their political importance in Ireland may have come to an abrupt end with their defeat at Caim Eirge in 1241, the McLaughlins continued to wield considerable influence in the affairs of the church, "claiming a prescriptive right to the high places in the See of Derry on account of their old ascendancy." History preserves the names of Nicholas "the Loughlinnagh" or McLaughlin, Prior of the Dominican Abbey in Derry in 1397 and Donaldus McGlachlyn, mentioned as one of the Chapter of Derry in Colton's Visitations. Bishops of Derry include Geoffrey MacLochlainn, 1297-1315 and Michael MacLochlainn, 1319-1324. A Patrick Loclannach or McLaughlin was appointed Vicar of Clonca Parish in 1425 and also held the title of the Vicar of Culldaff. Later Bishops of Derry include Peter McLaughlin, consecrated Bishop of Raphoe in 1802 but translated to Derry in 1823 and John McLaughlin, his nephew, who succeeded him.

From 1241 on the McLaughlins are mentioned only occasionally in the Annals and were to be found fighting the battles of the north of Ireland under the leadership of the O'Donnells and the O'Doghertys of Cinel Chonaill rather than with the Cinel Eoghainn. In 1603 the McLaughlins appear in a list of pacificated septs in a grant to Rory O'Donnell and in 1608 are described in the State Papers as being under the protection of Sir Neale Garve O'Donnell and his men.

In 1601 two McLaughlin chieftains are listed in the State Papers as dwelling in small castles on the shore of Lough Foyle in Moville Parish in the Inishowen peninsula. Hugh Carrogh MacLaughlyn, described as the "chief of his sept," appears at Caire MacEwlyn (later known as Redcastle). Brian Oge MacLaughlyn is listed a few miles away in Garnagall Castle (later known as Whitecastle). Both small castles were forfeited to the English crown a few years later and were granted to Sir Arthur Chichester as part of a grant which included most of the Inishowen peninsula. Chichester leased them to George Carey and both were in ruins by the middle of the 17th century.

The McLaughlins formed a large part of the standing army of Sir Cahir O'Dogherty and appear prominently in a pardon list said to have been prepared by local herenagh families in 1602. In 1608 they participated in the brief uprising of Sir Cahir O'Dogherty and were heavily represented in the pardon lists of King James I in 1609.

In 1608 the Plantation of Ulster was begun by the English with the stated intention of removing the native Irish from their lands and replacing them with Scottish and English settlers safely loyal to the English crown. All of the native Irish families of standing were driven out of the more fertile areas of the southern parts of the Inishowen peninsula at this date. Most of the displaced landholding chieftains migrated into the north of the Inishowen peninsula, which was as yet sparsely settled by the English and where the ancient Gaelic order still prevailed. Other Inishowen families are said to have migrated to the Province of Connacht in the west of Ireland at about this time.At the time of the Inquistion in 1609, the O'Doghertys and the McLaughlins were the principle landholders in the Inishowen peninsula. The following names appear in a list of native Irish holding lands under Chichester in 1622:

Felim O Dougherty, John McDwalto McLaughlin, Hugh Carron McOwen McLaughlin, Owen McShane Cugh McLaughlin, Owen Gorme McLaughlin, Donnell McBrian Oge McLaughlin, Nigell Oge McPhelim brosts O Dogherty, Richard O Dougherty, and Hugh McShane Ballagh O Dogherty.

Neither the O'Doghertys nor the McLaughlins received grants of land under the plantation scheme in Kilmacrenan Barony, which was reserved for Scottish Servitors and the native Irish chieftains, although both Donnell McBrian Oge McLaughlin and Richard Oge O Dougherty retained small freeholds in the Inishowen peninsula until they were confiscated in the aftermath of the Irish rebellion of 1641. Several McLaughlins appear in the Census of 1659 as "tituladoes" or the most important person in the district, including Brian Og McGlaghlin, gent., in the townland of Meaneletterbaile and Dbnnell McGlaghlin, gent., in the townland of Masagleen, both of Moville Parish. Edmund Moder McLaughlin and his son, Hugh, gent., appear in the townland of Tully One Trien in Clonca Parish and Donnell Ballagh McGlaghlin, gent., appears in the townland of Menedaragh, also in Clonca Parish.

In the Inquisitions of 1609 Manus McMelaghlin (a mistake for McLaughlin) appears as the herenagh of Carrigcooley (now the townland of Cooley) in Moville Parish in the Inishowen peninsula. In the same parish there is a reference to the "half a quarter of free land named Taivennegallon in the tenure of the McLaughlins." In Clonca Parish the "Clanloughlangrilles" or McLaughlins appear as one of three herenagh families, holding the "seven quarters called Crellagh (Greallagh)."

That branch of the McLaughlins holding the herenagh lands of Derry are represented by the following references:

"Finding: That the Bishop of Derry is seized in fee, in
right of his See, time out of mind, of a house or
castle, and a garden plot on the south of the
cathedral near the long tower in the island of
Derry, and of an orchard or park on the east side
of the great fort there, paying thereout yearly
to the herenagh Laghlina 10 white groats ....."

That the dean of Derry is seized, in like manner,
of a small parcel of land in the said island -
that within the said island is the herenagh
Loghlina in Derry diocese and the herenagh
O'Derry in Raphoe diocese ...."


That O'Donnell's castle, within the lower fort of
Derry City was bought by O'Donnell from the
herenagh Laghlinagh for 20 cows as part of his
herenagh, and built by O'Dougherty for
O'Donnell's use ...."

According to Col. Colby, superintendent of the "Ordnance Survey of County Londonderry, 1834" McLaughlins were herenaghs of one-half of the church lands of Derry.

In the Civil Survey of 1654 Donnell MacBrian Oge McGloghlin is named as an "Irish Papist" holding the one-half quarter of Clare in Moville Parish as a freehold, probably the same freehold described in the Inquisition of 1609 at Lifford as "Taivennegallon" in the tenure of the McLaughlins. This small freehold consisted of 55 acres of land, 25 of them arable, 5 acres of "Redd Bogg" and 10 acres of mountains. It was forfeited to the English Crown in the Cromwellian settlements of 1657 in which Donnell MacBrian Oge McLaughlin appears as a forfeiting proprietor.

Although politically insignificant in later centuries, the McLaughlins were still considered a "family of standing" in the Inishowen peninsula as large landholders and herenaghs of church lands, a highly respected and influential position on the local level in Irish society. Most of the herenaghs, according to Col. Colby, were scholars, could speak Latin and functioned as the custodians of culture and learning in the villages of Ireland. As the highest civil official at the local level in Irish society, they also were the determiners of all civil questions and controversies arising among their neighbors.

A sept could receive its herenagh lands in one of two ways. The position was an inherited one, but if the appointed herenagh sept died out, a new sept was chosen to take its place. Or a landholding sept could donate its lands to the church, receiving them back as "herenagh" lands, exempt from despoliation in times of war, in return acting as the lay official of the church, responsible for the repair and maintenance of the church. The herenagh families also paid an annual rent to the church, of livestock and produce. Because herenagh land was traditionally spared by marauding armies, many septs in the Inishowen peninsula, including the McLaughlins, donated their lands to the church to protect their livestock and possessions from the armies of the O'Donnells and the O'Neills.

In the Hearth Money Rolls of 1665 the McLaughlins still appear most prominently in their old strongholds of Moville, Culdaff and Clonca Parishes in the Inishowen peninsula and down the Foyle shore into the Parish of Temple Mor near Derry (now the Parishes of Muff and Burt and Inch). No McLaughlins appear in the "Rent Roll of Derry," dated 15 May 1628 or in the Muster Rolls of 1630 for Co. Donegal. The Census of 1659 records the surnames of four McLaughlin families living in or near the Liberties of the City of Londonderry and many McLaughlin births, marriages and deaths appear in the Temple Mor Parish records of the Derry Cathedral, 1642-1703, many of whom are named as "of this parish" or from Clendermot Parish in Londonderry County. In the Census of 1659 19 McLaughlin families appear in the nearby Barony of Terkerin in Londonderry County and 30 in the Barony of Kenaght, indicating those McLaughlins holding the herenagh lands of Derry were probably largely dispersed into these areas after 1608. Curiously, the surname does not appear in the Hearth Money Rolls of 1665 for Londonderry County.

In the Census of 1659 the McLaughlin surname also appears for the first time in the Barony of Noylagh and Bonagh in the west of Co. Donegal; and in the Hearth Money Rolls of 1665 in the Baronies of Kilmacrenan and Raphoe, indicating that members of this sept were displaced into these areas as well. As evidenced by the Griffith's Evaluation of Tenements beginning in 1854 the McLaughlin surname by that date was to be found in nearly every parish in the Inishowen peninsula and occurred generally throughout both Donegal and Londonderry, if in lesser numbers.

Three McLaughlins also appear in the Hearth Money Rolls of 1665 (incomplete) for Tyrone County, all in the Barony of Omagh, and may be the families referred to by J.P. Brown in his "MacLoughlins of Clan Owen" who lived in the vicinity of Glen Mournan near Strabanne and claimed to be of the "chief stock" of the family.


Branches of the Family


At the end of the 16th century, based on O'Clery's Book of Genealogies, there were three distinct branches of the McLaughlins of Tirconnell sept, each with a number of smaller branches, in all numbering perhaps one hundred men capable of bearing arms. All were descendants of Domnall MacLochlainn, slain at the Battle of Caim Eirge in 1241 A.D., through the line of his son, Murchadh (Moroch).

First Branch
Moville Parish
Inishowen peninsula

Descendants of Aibhne or Anthony (Uaithne) McLaughlin, chief of sept, whose death is mentioned in the Annals in 1510 A.D., through the lines of his three sons, Hugh, Brian and Niall. This is the only branch of the McLaughlins which can be identified with any certainty through English documents of the 17th century.

This branch of the McLaughlins of Tirconnell were seated in Moville Parish on the shore of Lough Foyle in the Inishowen peninsula and held the herenagh lands of Carrigcooley (Cooley), the one-half quarter freehold of Clare, Caire MacEwlyn or Redcastle and Garnagall Castle (Whitecastle).

Descendants of this branch of the family include Hugh carragh McLaughlyn, seated at Caire MacEwlyn or Redcastle in the townland of Tullynavinn in Moville Parish in 1601, described in the State Papers as the "Chief of his sept." The castle was forfeited to the crown at about that date because in an inquisition taken at Lifford in 1602 Hugh Carragh is named as a juror from the townland of Bullibrack, much further to the north in Moville Parish.

Other descendants include Owen gorme McLaughlin, Hugh carragh's brother, who appears in a list of native Irish holding land under Sir Arthur Chichester in the Inishowen peninsula in 1622. Also named in the same inquisition was John McDwalto McLaughlin, the son of Dubhaltaigh. He held the lands of Tevennyoes in Tullyavin in 1622. Manus murrae, an uncle, may have been the Manus MacMelaghlin described in an inquisition taken at Lifford in 1609 as the herenagh of Carrigcooley.

Several members are named in the pardon list of 1602 including John McDwalto McLaughlin, his brother, Hugh boy; Hugh carragh, Edmund McLaughlin and his son, Brian modartha.

Descendants of this branch held Garnagall Castle and the one-quarter freehold of Clare in Moville Parish and are identifiable through the 18th century in Amy Young's "Three Hundred Years in Inishowen."

Named in the pardon list of 1602 are Donogh and John dalve, sons of Manus McLaughlin (who also may have been the herenagh of Cooley discussed previously); Brian oge McLaughlin and his sons, Domnall and Torlogh..

This branch of the family was headed by Torlogh caech, who appears in the 1602 pardon list as "Terlie chair." His son Brian Oge McLaughlin held Garnagall Castle in 1601 and appears in the same pardon list as "Brian m'Terlie chair." His son Domnall MacBrian Oge appears in the list as "Donell m'Brian" as does his brother, Torlogh m'Brien.

Domnall or Donnell MacBrian Oge, after the loss of Garnagall Castle in 1601-1602, later held the one-half quarter freehold of Clare in Moville Parish, probably the same one-quarter freehold described in the Inquisition of 1609 as "Taivennegallon in the tenure of the McLaughlins."

In 1657 Donnell MacBrian Oge is named as a forfeiting proprietor in the Cromwellian settlement of that year. He is also listed as holding the same one-half quarter of Clare under Chichester in 1622. In the Census of 1659 a Brian Og McGlaghlin, gent, is named as a titulado in the townland of Meaneletterbailee in the extreme north of Noville Parish. A Donnell McGlaghlin, gent., appears in the adjacent townland of Masagleen, also a titulado. These men are probably the same Brian Oge McLaughlin of Garnagall Castle, 1601, and his son, Donnell MacBrian Oge, of the townland of Clare, 1622-1657. Two of Donnell MacBrian Oge's grandsons, Phelimy and Torlogh, were later tenants of the Rev. George McLaughlin, their nephew, who inherited the lands of Glenagivenny from his father, Domnall or Daniel McLaughlin, the Rector of Clonmany.

These three townlands, Meaneletterbailee, Massagleen and Glenagivenny form a district within Moville Parish known as "An Gleann" or "the Glens." It appears as though members of this branch of the McLaughlins removed to this part of Moville Parish after the forfeiture of Garnagall Castle in about 1601 and that of Clare in 1657.

The subsequent history of the descendants of Torlogh caech is related in Amy Young's "Three Hundred Years in Inishowen"as follows:

"Donald McBrian Oge was the son of Brian Oge, and he had a son
named Owen, who died in his father's lifetime, leaving six sons:
Donaghy Boy, Domnall, Peter, Turlogh and Shane Crone. Donaghy boy
died in 1697, leaving two sons, Henry, died abroad 1709; and
Brian, died abroad 1713. Domnall or Daniel and Peter were destined
for the Roman Catholic priesthood, and as there was no means in
Ireland at that time of preparing them for thsi, they were
dispatched to the Continent, probably to Spain, to enter a college.
The vessell in which they sailed was shipwrecked on the English
coast and the two young men were taken to the house of a nobleman,
who interested himself in their fate, and offered, if they would
conform to the religion of the English Church, to have them
educated at one of the English Universities. Peter refused and
continued his journey, and was eventually ordained a priest
. Domnall changed his opinions (and his name to Daniel), went to the
English University and in due time was ordained a clergyman of the
established church. In 1672 he was appointed to the parish of
Clonmany, where his brother Peter was now Roman Catholic priest.
The two brothers found themselves in very opposite circumstances.
Daniel had a large well-built church, but no congregation; for
even at the present day the Protestant population of the parish is
practically non-existent. Peter, on the other hand, had a
congregation numbering thousands, but their only places of worship
were 'little altars' which stood by the seaside or on the
mountaintops. His house was a miserable little thatched cabin by
the seashore, in the townland of Crossconnell.
The brothers lived to a good old age, and many tales are told
of them. On one occasion, on a Sunday, they met on the way to
their respective services. Domnall remarked: 'One going over, the
other coming back.' Not so,' said Peter. 'The one going up, and
the other going down, and may God judge between us which is which.'

Daniel built for himself a beautiful residence, known as
Dresden, situated in one of the loveliest spots in the whole of
Inishowen. Here, later, lived the Rev. Dr. Chichester, Rector of
Clonmany, 1754, who died in 1815. The house was not occupied after
1841 and is now in ruins.
Daniel died first and Peter mourned deeply for him. Their
mother lived for many years after Domnall's change of faith, which
never ceased to be a sorrow and grief to her. She seems to have
been of a poetical turn of mind, and has immortalised her sorrow in
verse, of which the following is an extract.

'Can it be spoken
How my heart is broken,
by thy fall, Oh! Domnall, from the ancient faith
With less of sorrow
Could I view tomorrow
My lost one herding on the mountain brown
Than strange doctrine teaching,
And new tenets preaching,
At yon lordly window, in his silken gown.'

Machtochair's "Inishowen"

Daniel married, about 1670-1680, Elizabeth, daughter of Alderman Thomas Skipton, of Ballyshaskey, and his wife Charity, daughter of Sir Thomas Staples of Lissane. The ancestry of Elizabeth is given at the end of this chapter.

He had two sons and four daughters, as follows -

1. George, born 1687. Entry in T.C.D. records -
McLaughlin, George, Pen. (Mr. Jenkins, Londonderry), June
25, 1700, aged 17; son of Daniel, Clericus; born co. Down
[a mistake for Donegal]. B.A., Vern, 1704. M.A. Aest,
1707. He possessed the lands of Claar and Glengivenny,
which had come to his father at the death of his elder
brother Donaghy Boy in 1697 or more probably at the death of
the latter's youngest son Brian in 1713. He was Rector of
Errigal Parish, Garvagh, Co. Derry, from 1782-86, but lived
at Culdaff in his later years, and died there, and seems to
have left his property to his nephew, Robert Young. There
were still in existence in Culdaff House some of his old
rentals and notes, of which copies now exist. Mention is
made of 'my uncle Phelimy McLaughlin,' and 'my uncle
Turlogh Mclaughlin,' of Glenagivenny, as paying rent for
lands in that part; and until the estates were sold there
was a family, who, when coming to Culdaff to pay rent, were
always brought into the house and treated on a different
basis to the other tenants, as relatives.

2. Owen, married his cousin, Elizabeth, dau. to Sir Alex

3. Elizabeth, married, 1703, George Young of Culdaff. .

4. Ann, married R. Keys and had s son, George. .

5. Mary, married, before 1713, John Dogherty, and had a
son, John. .

6. Charity, married after 1713, Michael Dogherty, and had
two sons, Daniel and George. .

Shane Crone, the youngest son of Owen McLaughlin, and a
brother of the Rev. Daniel, also married and had a son, Daniel,
of whom nothing more is known. .

A Donogh boy appears in the Hearth Money Rolls of 1665 in the townland of Clare and is probably the same Donaghy boy, grandson of Donnell MacBrian Oge, who died in 1697. This may also be the same Donogh boy Maghlaghlin, merchant, appointed as a burgess of the City of Londonderry in 1688. According to Amy Young, of Shane crone and his son, Daniel, nothing more is known. But a Shan m'Laughlin and a Donnell M'Laughlin appear in the Hearth Money Rolls of 1665 for the townland of Moneydarragh in Culdaff Parish and a Donnell ballagh McGlaghlin is named as a titulado residing in the townland of Menedaragh in Clonca Parish in the Census of 1659. Because the townland of Moneydarragh is adjacent to the townland of Clare, which later passed into the possession of the Rev. George McLaughlin, it is probable this Shan M'Laughlin is the same Shane crone of Amy Young's "Inishowen;" and Donnell ballagh McGlaghlin, gent., was his son Daniel (or more probably, Domnall or Donnell). Also appearing in the same townland in 1665 was a Brian McLaughlin, possibly the son of Donaghy boy, said to have died abroad in 1713.

Note: The townland of Moneydarragh was divided between the parishes of Culdaff and Clonca, which explains its inclusion in both parishes in the Hearth Money Rolls of 1665 and the Census of 1659.

Second Branch
McLaughlin of Derry
Templemore Parish
Inishowen peninsula

Descendants of Owen McLaughlin "an Oiffistel" or "the Official." The brother of Aibhne or Anthony, founder of the McLaughlins of Moville Parish.

The only identification possible concerning this branch of the McLaughlins of Tirconnell is that they held the herenagh lands of the McLaughlins in Temple Mor Parish in or near the island of Derry. Owen McLaughlin "the Official," founder of this branch was undoubtably a church official of some kind as was his grandson, Felim an Oirchindigh or "the herenagh." This strong identification with the church makes it probable this was the branch of the McLaughlins known in Donegal as the "McLaughlins of Derry."

Because the church lands in Derry were seized and awarded to the crown at a very early date (before the Inquisitions of 1609) no names of members of this branch are preserved in English documents, except for a few vague references to a herenagh "Laghlina" who lived on the island of Derry. In addition, the area near Derry is that mentioned by Brian Bonner as being cleared of native Irish chieftains in about 1608 and heavily planted with English settlers. Although in 1665 a few McLaughlins still lived in the more remote parts of the Parish of Templemore near Derry, it appears as though most members of this branch had been dislocated into the Baronies of Terkerin and Kenaght in nearby Londonderry County.

In addition to the McLaughlins of Moville Parish (known popularly as the "McLaughlins of Garnagall") and the McLaughlins of Derry, we are aware of at least one other large landholding held by the McLaughlins in the Inishowen peninsula, that of the "Clanloughlangrilles" in Clonca Parish.

As is the case with the McLaughlins of Derry, their lands were confiscated at a very early date and none of their names are preseved in English documents of the 17th century. However, it is possible a branch of the McLaughlins of Derry were awarded the herenagh lands of Greallagh in Clonca Parish because of its close association with the See of Derry.

In 1622 an Owen McShane cugh McLaughlin appears in the Inquisition of 1622 holding land under Chichester in the townland of Baskill in Culdaff Parish. This man is probably the same Owen McShane caoch who appears in O'Clery's Genealogies and in the pardon list of 1602 as Owen m'Shane chair. The nickname "cugh" is therefor probably a mistake for "caech" or "chair."

In the Hearth Money Rolls of 1665 the following names appear in the townland of Greallagh, of which the "Clanloughlangrilles" or McLaughlins were herenaghs:

James McLaughlin
Owen McLaughlin
Connor McLaughlin
Neale McLaughlin Sr.
Neale McLaughlin Jr.
Hugh McLaughlin

These men appear to have been descendants of the same John caech described above, who according to O'Clery's Genealogies had sons named Owen, Brian modartha, James, Connor the Friar and Manus McLaughlin. A definite identification of the "Clanloughlangrilles" is unfortunately impossible given the available source documents, but it is possible that a branch of the herenaghs of Derry were at some date awarded the herenagh lands of the monastic foundation at Greallagh in Clonca Parish. According to Brian Bonner, Greallagh was the site of a Columban monastic foundation which was in later centuries subordinate to the Vicar of Culdaff and controlled by the Bishop of Derry, to whom the herenaghs of Greallagh paid their rent. The lands of Greallagh are now known as Carrowtemple (Temple moyle), Drumaville and Drumballycaslin.

In 1425 A Patrick Loclannach or McLaughlin was named the Vicar of Greallagh and also held the Vicarship of Culdaff. He later died at the Apostolic See in Rome while on a pilgrimmage. It therefore appears probable the McLaughlins held their herenagh lands in Greallagh from at least this date.

Third branch
McLaughlin of Tyrone
Vicinity of Glen Mournan
Parish of Urney

Descendants of the "Eoghanaigh," the eldest son of Niall, through the line of his son Hugh.

This is the most difficult branch of the McLaughlins to identify with any certainty. None of their names are recognizeable in 17th century documents and there is a serious error in O'Clery's genealogies concerning their descent (see Betham's transcription of the Linea Antiqua). However, based on O'Clery's Genealogies, it appears as though this branch of the McLaughlins of Tirconnell held lands in Co. Tyrone apart from the main body of the sept in the Inishowen peninsula. The founder of this branch is described in the genealogies as the "Eoghanaigh," a descriptive term translated by Betham in other Irish genealogies as 'of Tyrone,' i.e., one who dwelt in Tyrone. This "Eoghanaigh" (his given name is not recorded) therefore appears to have left the traditional homelands of the McLaughlins in Co. Donegal and settled in Co. Tyrone under the O'Neill chieftains.

Two later descendants of this branch of the family bore the nickname "galloglach" or "gallowglass," an epithet usually but not always applied to Scottish merceneries. Without a territory of their own, it appears that at least certain members of this branch of the McLaughlins of Tirconnell functioned as mercenery soldiers, perhaps under the O'Neill princes of Tyrone.

J.P. Brown, in his "MacLoughlins of Clan Owen" (1879) made several references to a branch of the McLaughlins which resided in Tyrone County and considered itself of the main stock of the family.

"There has been for generations back a branch of the
family settled in Glen Mournen near Strabanne." (p. 41)

"After the destruction of Aileach by O'Brien, the family of the
kings [McLaughlin] removed to Inis Enaigh in the parish of
Urney, in Tyrone, and there dwelt until the coming of the
English. This would go to show that the families of Glen
Mournen and it vicinity are the chief stock, as indeed they
claim to be." (p. 84).

In support of this theory is the fact that none of the names of this branch of the McLaughlins are recognizeable in the pardon lists of 1602, indicating they did not live in the Inishowen peninsula.

Turning to the Hearth Money Rolls of 1665 for Tyrone Co., only three McLaughlins are named (although some returns are missing), all in the Barony of Omagh, in the parishes of Longfield and Drumra. (townlands of sopgaly and Cullbuke).